Hungary elections: High voter turnout as polls close

Some 7.9million Hungarians are eligible to vote in the 2018 parliamentary election. Net photo

Hungarians have voted in high numbers in a closely-watched election that has been billed as a test for the country and Europe.

Voting officially ended at 7pm (17:00 GMT) on Sunday, but numerous polling stations remained open to accommodate long lines of people waiting to cast their ballots to elect representatives in the country’s 199-seat parliament.

Figures from Hungary’s National Election Office half an hour before polls closed showed that 68.13 per cent of 7.9 million eligible voters had cast their ballots by 6:30pm (16:30 GMT).

The figure was higher than the final turnout of 61.73 per cent in the last election in 2014, which gave Prime Minister Viktor Orban, of the right-wing Fidesz party,  a landslide victory.

Opposition leaders hope a large turnout improves their chances against Orban, who is seeking his third consecutive term and fourth overall since 1998.

Opinion polls have consistently put Orban and Fidesz 20 or more points clear of their nearest rivals, Jobbik, a far-right party that has been moving towards the centre, and the centre-left Socialists.

Preliminary results are expected after 11pm (21:00 GMT).

With far-right and populist parties making gains in a spate of recent European elections, including in Italy and Austria, analysts have speculated that Orban’s anti-migrant and “illiberal” policies could have long-lasting implications for the European Union (EU).

“I think this will be the most frenzied elections Hungary has had [since the fall of communism in 1989],” Bulcsu Hunyadi, a senior analyst at the Political Capital Institute think-tank, told Al Jazeera.

In advance of the vote, the prime minister had called on voters to “save Hungary”.

Orban’s campaign has focused largely on issues like migration and George Soros, the Hungarian American billionaire and philanthropist who Fidesz accuses of encouraging refugees to flood the central European country.



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